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Why Did an 'Amber Alert' Catch California Off Guard?

Roger Weber/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Californians got a jolt overnight, and it wasn't from an earthquake.

Many people were already in bed Monday night when alarms on their cell phones began sounding around 11 p.m. It was an Amber Alert for missing 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her 8-year-old brother Ethan.

And while this practice is familiar to some, it was the first time California law enforcement officials used the push notification system to alert the public of missing children via cell phone.

When police choose to push a notification like this one, an alarm is triggered on every enabled smartphone in the areas selected by law enforcement.

On social media sites Tuesday, a number of smartphone owners expressed displeasure with the alerts, and some have moved to disable the alerts – a function buried within the device’s notification settings.

But that has the Federal Emergency Management Agency concerned, since the feature is meant to be a way of warning the public of danger. FEMA is said to be discussing with law enforcement ways to limit such alerts during overnight hours.

Click here for more on the Amber Alert for Hannah Anderson and Ethan Anderson.

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ABC News Radio